Friday, April 28, 2006

CJ at third? Why not?

No surprise here that three weeks to the day after news broke that her ex-teammates had re-formed into a new squad, legendary Halifax skip Colleen Jones has attracted a talented new team... for which she will play third (ie. "mate" in Atlantic Canadian terminology).

And why not? If one trend sees big-name skips dropping down to third, second or even lead stone to form a "super-squad", why not the reverse (see Morris, John earlier this week)?

Jonesy is no stranger to the position. She won the national mixed championship twice, in 1999 (with skip Paul Flemming) and in '93 with skip/husband Scott Saunders. She also played third at three other national mixed events in the 90s.

Here's what CJ told the Daily News:

I absolutely loved that position. Your shots are massive. You just have to watch the great thirds, like Randy Ferbey, or Mark Nichols of the Brad Gushue team. Sure, the skip saves an end, but the three people in front of them are the ones who make or break the deal. And I think it's a position I'm dying to get at. And a position I just want to be really strong at in every way.

This marks the first time that three members of the 1982 Scotties championship team – with a rookie Jones skipping at only 22 years of age – have reunited on a team (we think). Skip Kay Zinck had this to say:

She was looking for a change. She's kind of burnt out from skipping and leading a team. She's had the gun on her back and the pressure on her for a long time now. Where some of us might just take a year off to rebuild, she's looking to refresh herself with just a change.

Speaking of, check out this "That Was Then" feature in the Chron: Another Team Jones, ripping up junior curling way back in '76 (second paragraph from the bottom).

Elsewhere, sounds like Saskatchewan curling is in trouble, and we're not talking about Benny Heebz' departure for Calgary. The new president is facing all kinds of problems – everything from plummeting team entries to financial woes – and now there's a movement to put provincial finals back into curling clubs. Saskatchewan once led the way in moving events from clubs into arenas – the men's provincial has been staged in arenas since 1992, while the women's championship moved to arenas in 1998 – but as George Re
gnier told Monday's Regina Leader-Post at the recent AGM:

I don't think it's going backwards. Times have changed and we're finding the crowds aren't as large. You have to work really hard to get people out for a Tankard and women's championship. It's not that simple anymore.

What's definitely not simple – it's actually quite baffling – was the previous arena strategy: it somehow excluded the big centres of Regina and Saskatoon. Said Regnier:

Is it not better for our game to have the championships in the biggest markets in the province? You have a lot more people to draw from. I'm not saying anything bad about the smaller communities, it just gives other places a chance to play host to the championships.

Well, yeah! So why not allow arena provincials in those cities? Why does the event have to revert to a curling club? Are there no small arenas – minimum seating for 800, TV considerations etc. – in Regina or Saskatoon that would fit the bill? Bueller?

Alberta would argue this is indeed "going backwards." According to today’s Calgary Herald (subscription only) there's a rush to put Alberta women’s provincials into arenas, and it could happen as early as 2008. As the delightfully-quotable Heather Rankin told Allen Cameron:

That would be fantastic, as long as we have a good icemaker who makes swingy ice. If we're playing on straight, quick ice, that does nothing for us. I actually believe that's the reason Alberta hasn't done well over the last 10 years, because we play on bowling alleys most of the time, and when you get to a Canadian championship, it takes us four games to figure it out.

Some curling bullet points for your weekend:

Brad Gushue and Jennifer Jones were jetted into Guelph, Ontario last weekend for the Canadian Curling Association's Coaching in Curling clinic. Gushue gave two presentations and was part of a panel discussion, and he quoted – to the Guelph Mercuryprecisely what The Curling News asked him about back at the Regina Brier:

I think it was about 1993 or 1994 when I started, and that's when the announcement was made that curling was going to be an Olympic sport. Even before that I grew up watching the Olympics. I always wanted to be an Olympian, and the only sport that I played was hockey. You dream about that, and the first time I started curling I quit hockey. So then it switched over to that, I wanted to curl in the Olympics. Most high level competitive curlers dream about the Brier. That's their original dream. For me, I'm probably one of the first in this generation to have this dream of the Olympics.

Kudos also to Gushue for a willingness to help get the peak age of competitors down from the mid-30s to mid-20s... and TCN agrees that coaching, begun at an earlier age, is one way of helping.

• All kinds of curlers up to no good (just kidding) this weekend: Gushue golden boy Mike Adam will be in Winnipeg, along with various other athletes including the Flying Canucks... maybe Adam will drag some Olympians out to Team Kristy Jenion's unique fundraiser, a Wing Ding at Hooters Restuarant, where the gals – back-to-back Manitoba finalists to go to the Scotties TOH in both 2005 and '06 – will fundraise for next season, using beer and a barbeque (genius!), a silent auction, and even an NHL jersey as a prize. We won't comment on the possibility of tight T-shirts and orange shorts also making an appearance (looks like we just did!)... and we did mention a sayonara to Toronto's Mike Harris – soon to be an Albertan – taking place in west-end T.O. on Saturday night as well, right?

• Speaking of Winnipeg, will their wildly successful BDO Classic Canadian Open Grand Slamarino take place again in early January – and will that get confirmed soon? – so that it might not conflict either with women’s provincials or the MCT Championship? Just asking. And as for the lead position on JJones' squad, it has returned to local city limits as Winnipegger Dana Allerton will replace import Georgina Wheatcroft, who returns to B.C. and just might hook up again with Kelley Law...

• More Turin curlers – Canadian bronze gals Shannon Kleibrink and Amy Nixon – will bash with bats as part of a Stampeders charity softball game next month...

• More stories on country music star Toby Keith and his wayward curling dreams; these cowpokes seem to think we throw a "huge metal disk" (sigh) and here's an on-ice challenge to mister fancy-hat himself...

• Scotland might finally have a new curling academy, worth 1.5 million pounds. Sounds exciting, but sadly this will merely replace the Gogar Park CC, which closed two years ago to make way for a new corporate headquarters...

• In U.S. news, communications dynamo Rick Patzke is the new honcho of USA Curling... as this U.S. journo agrees, no Double-A baseball player can possibly win a name award in an Olympic curling (hello Markku U-15) year... remember Salt Lake City 2002? The local blat looks both backward and forward at the sport in that town, four years later... now we've got Purdue (Indiana) students taking on curling...

• Finally, we're not sure how we missed this one during Torino 2006, but this timewaster (look for "game") involves cows and a "real chocolate vodka shake." So there you go.

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